Native Plants Transform Outdoor ‘Laboratory’ in the Land of 10,000 Lakes
In northern Minnesota, Boy Scouts plant seedlings to improve 14.9 acres of wildlife habitat
With the scrub bushland cleared and the soil prepared, the weekend of planting could begin.
Around 130 Boy Scouts of America volunteers, from ages 12 to 75, carefully placed hundreds of seedlings and shrubs native to Minnesota into the earth.
The project’s goal is to transform 84.3 acres of unusable scrub brush and thistle into viable wildlife habitat through the planting of native shrubs and trees; the project began in 2023 with the transformation of a 14.9-acre tract.
With good stewardship and tending, the plantings will grow into a lush forest that will serve as habitat and food sources for mammals of all sizes, from chipmunks to porcupines to bears.
The conservation work will take place over four years at the Camp Wilderness Boy Scout Camp, located near Park Rapids, MN. The project was initiated by a partnership between the U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Northern Lights Council, the Boy Scouts division that administers the not-for-profit BSA programs in North Dakota, 18 counties in northwest Minnesota, and two counties each in Montana and South Dakota.
“We’ve been teaching and promoting environmental education and conservation stewardship long before it was popular to teach these subjects,” he continues. “Scouting has always taught and practiced conservation and outdoor ethics because we operate in the wilderness. We want to keep it wild for the generation of Scouts to come.”
We were impressed with this project’s vision to make a significant impact on the land and wildlife, as well as its investment in the education of young Scouts. Our recent $10,000 Fueling Futures grant over three years will help with the cost of the plantings and professional support and equipment to transform the land into a space in which native plants can thrive.
Involving youth in conservation efforts not only helps the Scouts of today become stewards of the environment, but supports the Northern Lights Council’s commitment to the next generation.
McCartney says the youth who volunteer their time outdoors develop a relationship with the land, a relationship they will carry forward to their children and beyond.
As with generations of Boy Scouts before, the young people who participate in this land stewardship initiative will one day be able to bring their grandkids to the site. McCartney envisions the pride they’ll feel showing off their contributions.
“They’ll say, ‘Hey, look, I planted this forest,’” he remarks. “Scouting has always taught conservation because we operate in the wilderness. It’s important for us to maintain that. We’re making it a priority.”